Angela Davis, a well-known author, political activist, and scholar led a moving discussion on Nov. 4, 2014 at Xavier expressing the importance of fair trials and the America’s prison system. Davis asked the question, “Why is the USA the place that imprisons more people than anywhere?” Her answer, “Racism.” She expressed the “disaster capitalism” theory is aimed to take advantage of people’s pain, suffering, and ignorance to make a profit, validating imprisonment as the solution. She encouraged her audience help “rip imprisonment up by the roots.” Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun, two photographers who tracked the mistreatment of prisoners in Louisiana State Prison at Angola, stated their opposition to prison as punishment rahter than rehabilitation. Louisiana earned the name of prison capitol of America due to its over-crowded and inhumane prison system, they said. “This poor incarceration system stems from Louisiana police racially profiling and targeting African American men and women,” said Carmen Demeroulle, a former inmate and current president of Cease Fire—a nonprofit organization for wrongly accused inmates. “Prisons have been given the reference of being the main incubator for young African Americans,” Demeroulle said. Norris Henderson, an exonerated inmate who spent 27 years in Angola State Penitentiary, experienced inhumane treatment in the Louisiana prison system first-hand. “The prison guards were the worst because they had power and abused it,” Henderson said. McCormick mentioned the prison system is easily compared to 21st century slavery. Angola is the only prison where people still pick cotton by hand. Henderson started generating money for inmates by selling t-shirts at the Ogden Museum that read, “Angola ain’t the place to be.” “Prison is supposed to be where people are rehabilitated, but it actually produces violence, repeated offenders, and wrongly prosecuted inmates,” Davis said.
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